The criminal justice system was established to protect law-abiding citizens, to uphold their rights and liberties, and to prosecute those who break the law. It is only supposed to impose penalties on those who legitimately break the law; there is no legal and moral justification for a criminal justice system to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Crime + Punishment, a Hulu original documentary released last month, reveals the true nature of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and their controversial practices. For instance, the documentary mentions how NYPD officers are pressured to meet an “arrest quota” and are potentially punished if they fail to meet the “arrest quota.” The more arrests a department makes, the more funding it receives from the government.
As a result, officers are often sent to neighborhoods with high demographics of people of color, and are pressured to make arbitrary arrests. One victim of these arrests was Pedro Hernandez, who was arbitrarily charged with a shooting after already being falsely arrested several times in his past and now must fight for his freedom. After hiring a private investigator to help him pursue evidence for his freedom, Hernandez’s mother was forced to move their family out of their Bronx neighborhood because of the NYPD’s constant harassment. As the documentary reveals, this case is only one of many cases that shows the NYPD infringing on the rights of citizens on unjustified grounds.
Crime + Punishment reveals the shortcomings of our legal system, as those who are expected to uphold the law are the same people who are breaking it. The power of arrest is granted to police officers because it is expected they will arrest only those who break the law, but they have clearly abused this power. It is important that society knows about these shortcomings, as society should never remain ignorant to a police department that indirectly seeks to harm law-abiding citizens. Crime + Punishment begins a discussion of how we must stop pretending our legal system truly represents all of us and acts in all of our interests. It begins the discussion of how deeply ingrained the problem of racism is in the NYPD, from the arbitrary arrests to the unfair compensation the NYPD receives for carrying out racist acts. It lets us know that this is not a time to merely hope, but to act. It is a time for us to recognize the truth: this is not justice. Arrest quotas were made illegal in 2010; however, lawsuits are currently being processed by the officers of the department itself, making the law process biased and unjust. It is time for real reform to come to our justice system.